John Wayne portrays Singin' Sandy Saunders and has a reputation as the most notorious gunman since Billy the Kid.
That's somewhat ironic though, since it's later revealed that he's a special Secret Service agent sent from Washington to investigate a land swindle scheme under the direction of town boss James Kincaid (Forrest Taylor).
December 29, 2011
This is the only film I've seen or heard of where John Wayne is purported to sing and play guitar. I say "purported" because that clearly is not his voice we hear singing. And, if you have ever played a guitar, you can see that he is not holding his hand in the proper position to finger the frets, even though he has his back to the camera all while he is "playing." I have to wonder if this is one of his earliest films with Paul Malvern, before they gave up the singing cowboy schtick as a bad job.
We also don't get to see as much trick riding as in his other Lone Star films, though his flying mount over the side of his horse in one scene looked like a difficult accomplishment. He wins out in the same way he does in his other films, though, by out-thinking and outsmarting the bad guys. In this case, he seems to be a hydrological engineer as well as a Secret Service agent, since he knows exactly where to place a charge of dynamite to blow open the water supply that the bad guy has locked up. Naturally, he tricks the bad guys into doing it for him. He also wins the girl by the end of the film, which became his trademark in this series, though he only gives her a quick kiss before riding off in this one.
Another unusual feature to this film is that we have (a very young) Al St. John playing one of the bad guys. I've not seen him in a bad guy role before; usually he plays the good guy's sidekick. He's up to his usual antics, though, doing plenty of clowning with his bad guy partner (Heinie Conklin?). He shows himself to be a straight shooter, though, in his more serious moments.
This Paul Malvern/Lone Star Productions/John Wayne series of westerns is noteworthy for better writing (IMO, of course) than what they were cranking out at PRC, Monogram, and other Poverty Row studios. I was surprised, therefore, to see a serious discontinuity in this film. In the first scene, Wayne finds sheriff Baxter out in the scrub brush, shot and seriously injured. After looking him over, Wayne tells him, "You're gonna be alright. I'll have you in [some town?] before night." We don't see the sheriff again until the end of the film, and are left wondering if Wayne managed somehow to get him to a doctor, or just left him out there in the brush. Other than that, it was a tightly knit story well told, with enough complexity to maintain interest.
This print is unfortunately not as well preserved as many of the others in the Malvern/Wayne series here on IA. The video has gone a bit soft and blurry, which makes some scenes (and some of the cast) a little difficult to distinguish. The audio is relatively clear, though there is a considerable amount of hiss and other background noise. The good news is there are no (or few) missing frames to disrupt the dialogue. I downloaded the 697MB DivX file, which turns out to be an AVI with XviD-encoded video. No compression artifacts were visible, which is a good thing, since the film was already blurry enough.